Nikon portrait lenses - Ai-S versus AF-D (135/2,85/1.4)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rastislav__virik, Sep 8, 2011.

  1. Hello, I'd love to get serious about portraiture and I want to buy a few good performing lenses for that purpose. I shoot mostly film (FA) but sometimes DX digital too (D40) and surely some FX body in the future.
    I've read lots of older posts but none of them gave me satisfying answer. So sorry about asking repeatedly but it can't let me sleep.
    Here's my question about lenses, I would love to buy a short tele,85/1.4 and medium tele 135/2 and maybe 105mm either. Ai-s versions are greatly built and are cheaper but how do they stand against they're newer cousins. Are they only legends or really great performing lenses? And I really don't care about AF as I use manual camera. Performance is all I want(for portraits mostly).
    So,what is the real difference between 135/2 Ais and newer 135/2 AF-D,despite $500 price difference and DC ring,is D version worth twice the price,what is the bokeh like when compared? Is there anybody who owns both of them and can compare? What about CA,and LoCA? Some say AIs have more of them,others say that AF-D is worse. I've read a few reviews too but opinions vary greatly in this subject.
    Same thing with 85mm/1.4. Some say that 85mm f/1.4 Ai-s is a king,but I've also read that 85mm f/1.4D is sharper and has a better bokeh. I don't consider G version because it will not work on my FA camera.
    Easiest thing would be try them all,I know, but I don't really have that option. So I'm asking you first. It's a significant amount to invest for me and I want a truly great performing lens without selling it next week. And I'm really new to this field.
    I know it's a hard question to answer but I'll be grateful for all your opinions.
    Thank you.
     
  2. Hi Rastislav. I don't own all these, but I'll give such feedback as I can...

    The 135 f/2 AF-D DC has "defocus control" that actively alters the spherical aberration behaviour in order to modify the appearance of bokeh in front of and behind the lens (photozone's review shows the effect). I'm sure the Ai-s version is a lovely lens (I've only read reviews), but it doesn't have this feature, and there's no way the bokeh is going to be as smooth/controllable. That said, the DC lens can play hell with autofocus and it introduces relatively hellacious LoCA, which is why I've been meaning to sell mine for so long. The bokeh is very smooth, but a few experiences of green hair from being slightly out of focus were enough. That said, stop down to f/4 (or don't pixel-peep) and it's very good - but I wanted a lens that can lose the background more than f/4! I do own a 135mm f/2.8 Ai; there's a little LoCA wide open, but for something so small and cheap (the DC is neither, although the weight helps with hand-holding) it does pretty well, so long as you can focus it.

    I've not used an 85mm f/1.4 Ai-s, but they're still quite expensive on the used market. Every review I've seen of the AF-D suggests that it's very soft in the corners until you stop down a lot - this may be fine for you, depending on your subject matter, but it put me off, especially at the price of the AF-D. The 85mm f/1.4 Samyang is a relatively good performer and much cheaper, if you're prepared to manual-focus - that's the solution I went with, and I'd recommend at least considering it in your position. The AF-S replacement for Nikon's 85mm f/1.4 is much sharper wide open, but obviously very expensive and prone to LoCA (and G).

    None of these lenses are especially good with LoCA until you stop down. If LoCA bothers you (as it does me), the best options in faster lenses seem to be either the Voigtlander APO series (expensive, rare, discontinued), the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro lenses (not strictly perfect, but not bad and relatively affordable) or the solution I went with, the 200 f/2 (very expensive and enormous). I may add a Sigma 150mm to my selection at some point, if only because they're more portable than the 200mm, but I think they're "G" and therefore won't help you. I'm not aware of any lateral CA issues with any of these lenses.

    I hope that helps, at least until someone with experience of the older lenses can chime in. Good luck.
     
  3. Hi,
    I only have one of the lenses you mention, but for that one I can answer this question: Are they only legends or really great performing lenses?
    The 105mm f/2.5 is a really great performing lens. In my view, it holds up easily against newer lenses (in my case, best comparison is a AF-D 80-200 f/2.8). The 105 can be found for relatively little money and is worth every penny.
     
  4. I agree that 105/2.5 AI(S) is one of the best options at hand for MF portraiture. My copy is very sweet and I'll never part with it. I did not tested 85/1.4 AI-S but it seems a very good lens and its price tag reflects that. Instead I have a good copy of 85/2 AI-S and I'm delighted by it. Small, inexpensive and very nice character. I also have 85/1.4 AF-D and this lens is a classic for portraiture. Very nice bokeh and who cares for soft corners at portraits? Also I tested in a shop Samyang 85/1.4... it's a real beast with incredible good IQ. Anyhow my preferred 85 is Sigma 85/1.4 but since is a G lens does not work for you.
    My less good experience is with 135/2 DC. I'm not so excited about it... using or not the defocusing control. I may part with it one day. Never tried 135/2 AI-S but heard and seen very good things / pictures from it.
     
  5. Few hours ago I have read Rorslett comments about the 85/1.4 versions. To be short, he mention on the AFD fringing issues, high sharpness up to f5.6, softer if smaller. On the AiS, softness up to f2.8, and sharper from f8 and smaller, here he doesn`t mention fringing issues.
    Looks like the fringing issue came with the IF fashion; the only 85 without IF is the AiS Nikkor.
    About bokeh, I don`t know what to think. He mentions the highlight harshness of the AiS in comparison to the AFD. Personally, I dislike all that circular spots, I don`t care if they are more or less obvious, usually splitting hairs; to my liking all are ugly. In other than this, the diferences use to be minimal to my taste.
    Although I have an AiS sample, I cannot tell about my own experience because I keep it unused since a long time ago. I always end using 105mm lenses, which I prefer.
    My favourites are the mentioned 105/2.5 in MF, and the not-so-sexy-for-portrait-purists 105VR. I only use FX and film.
    For portraiture I -by far- prefer an AF lens, simply because I get more perfectly focused shots. Most of my portraits are not posed at all; I have to press the AF-ON button a lot of times before getting the shot, while framing and/or waiting for the right moment. The 105VR have a reasonable bokeh quality, AF speed and the VR aid that makes me not to look for another one.
     
  6. I have been playing a bit with my 85/1.4AiS, something I wanted to do since I read some Andrew`s posts. I wonder if his Samyang performs similarly.
    I wanted to take all the fringing I can get from the lens. One flash for the subject, another for the background. Don`t know if it says anything, I have never seen a lens that doesn`t show this fringing issues under this conditions.
    First, the whole frame. This pic is taken at f8; at f1.4, with the same exposure levels, you can guess that is a green fringe, but not so evident:
    00ZIwV-396887584.jpg
     
  7. At f1.4, under extreme contrast, there is certainly a green fringe. Softness is also obvious... with a flare effect that recall me the "Leica glow" of the 35/1.4AiS wide open that I use to like so much.
    This is not the focus plane but the area where the fringe is more evident:
    00ZIwa-396889584.jpg
     
  8. At f2, the fringing is slightly softer but still visible. The lens become noticeably sharper:
    00ZIwc-396891584.jpg
     
  9. I don`t want to be boring; the last one at f8 where the thing has gone completely. Now the lens is really sharp... I`m surprised how close is this lens to the mentioned 35/1.4. I can post more pics if needed.
    00ZIwe-396893584.jpg
     
  10. Forgot to mention that are 100% crops.
     
  11. I would not worry about the marginal increase in image quality of the autofocus lenses in this range.
    I had the 135/2 AIS and liked it but I had the Nikon 200/2 AI, and Zeiss/Contax 85/1.4, at the same time and the 135/2 did not have the "wow factor" characteristics of the other two much more expensive lenses. Obviously the 200/2 is an unfair comparison. What I learned about the Zeiss 85/1.4 and I suspect the Nikon 85/1.4 Ais is very similar is that from f1.4 to f2 their image quality is directed at creating pleasing portraits with a slight softness (not unlike that of the a 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 lenses that I have owned in the past) and with nice soft rendering of out-of-focus foregrounds and backgrounds that the cheaper lenses cannot duplicate. Then by f2.8 the Zeiss was the sharpest lens I have ever had, and again I suspect the Nikon 85/1.4 would sharpen significantly as well from f2.8 to f5.6.
    I anticipate the purchase of a Nikon 85/1.4 AIS sometime in the next two years, myself, and I highly recommend this one. Just in the past couple of weeks I considered one of the Samyang/Vivitar/Rokinon 85/1.4 lenses until I read of repeated aperture blade problems, and my concern over longevity of the lens.
    I would love the Zeiss lens again but I prefer a lens that works on both my Nikon bodies and Canon bodies.
    The other lens that I have considered is the very affordable and very highly rated Nikon 105/2.5 AIS.
     
  12. I wanted to take all the fringing I can get from the lens. One flash for the subject, another for the background. Don`t know if it says anything, I have never seen a lens that doesn`t show this fringing issues under this conditions.​
    Challenge accepted. :) At the risk of flooding the thread, here are some example. Two-flash setup and the nearest thing to Jose's model I could find. I seem to be struggling to saturate the background (operator incompetence of some sort). I tried to match the subject size in the frame for each lens (i.e. I was farther away with the 200mm, closer with the 85mm); apologies for not getting it perfect - the minimum focus distances didn't help.
    All these are at 1/200s hand-held (not that it should matter with the flashes), ISO adjusted to compensate for changes in aperture (ISO 400 at f/2) and occasionally pushed a stop in RAW in RAW because it's late and I can't count - in case you wonder why the smaller apertures are noisier. All via ACR's defaults with no additional sharpening provided. The 200mm had VR on.
    Starting with the "oh dear" case, here's the 135mm f/2. I'll begin without playing with the defocus control...
    00ZIya-396917584.jpg
     
  13. Here's the same at f/2.8...
    00ZIyd-396919584.jpg
     
  14. And, when it starts getting more reasonable, at f/4.
    00ZIyf-396919784.jpg
     
  15. I should probably take a second to show you what you're looking at. Everything but this image is at 1:1 from a D700 - LoCA will occupy more pixels on a D3x, for example.
    00ZIyh-396921584.jpg
     
  16. Still on the 135 f/2 DC, now playing with the defocus control - I set it to rear (R) and the number for the aperture, as per instructions.
    00ZIyl-396921684.jpg
     
  17. Stepping the aperture back up...
    00ZIyn-396923684.jpg
     
  18. And the case that I was hoping was going to be useful - f/2, DC at R2.
    00ZIyq-396923784.jpg
     
  19. Just to show how bad this really is, here's elsewhere in the image...
    00ZIyr-396925584.jpg
     
  20. Finally, here's the worst of the flare from elsewhere in the image. Note: this is making a very good lens look very bad, and I'm not just saying that because I want to sell mine. Sadly, I take a lot of wide-open photos with black and white edges out of focus...
    00ZIyu-396927584.jpg
     
  21. So much for Hypnoken's "some chromatic aberration" and "don't be afraid to shoot at f/2".
    Now the Samyang 85mm f/1.4. I've not had any aperture blade problems, but I've not had it long, so it may be in store. So far, though, I'm a happy customer (for the price, which was a quarter the 135 DC's).
    00ZIyw-396929684.jpg
     
  22. f/1.4 on the Samyang isn't as bad as f/2 on the 135mm DC, but it's not quite perfect. Let's try to match the depth of field rather than the background blur, and drop to f/2...
    00ZIz0-396931584.jpg
     
  23. For me, f/2 is pretty good for LoCA. Just for completeness, here's f/4.
    00ZIz3-396931684.jpg
     
  24. Just to show the Samyang's good points, here's the leg crop to match the last image from the 135mm.
    00ZIz5-396933584.jpg
     
  25. So the Samyang's better than the 135mm, and something well worth the price to me, but definitely not perfect (at least wide open). To really meet the challenge of being able to lose the background and not have LoCA, here's the 200 f/2. It better be able to do this, because this is why I paid three times the price of the 135mm to get one...
    00ZIz7-396933684.jpg
     
  26. Here's the same lens at f/2.8 to clean up any remaining LoCA - but you have to look pretty hard to see anything, even in an example like this.
    00ZIzC-396935684.jpg
     
  27. (Apologies for missing the focus points a bit on the above image - it's hard to focus reliably on a black statue under dim lighting when hand-holding a 3kg lens...)
    Finally, here's the leg case (well, the skirt just above the leg - the legs were out of frame) on the 200 f/2 to show what it should look like. If the 135mm behaved like this, I'd not have bought a 200 f/2. (The Voigtlander APO lenses and possibly the 150mm Sigma f/2.8 macros can do similar tricks, but not lose the background quite so well.)
    That's just dragged the reputation of a couple of very good lenses through the mud by making them look bad (depending on how picky you are). Again, the 135 DC is a very good lens if you avoid monochrome transitions in the out-of-focus area, stop down, or shoot in black and white. The Samyang is very good until you compare it with a lens that cost fifteen times as much. For what it's worth, I believe the 85mm f/1.4 AF-S has LoCA behaviour almost as bad as the 135mm DC's (from the images I've seen), comparing f/1.4 with f/2. I can't speak for the AF-D 85mm f/1.4, since I'm apparently one of the few people who let the focal plane reach the edge of the image and who won't pay the going rate of the AF-D for blurry edges. Both the f/1.4 Nikkors are exceptionally good lenses used within their limits.
    But I hope all that helps!
    00ZIzS-396937584.jpg
     
  28. Jose and Adnrew,thank you for the effort with the pictures,85 look acceptable but 135 fringes really too much. I have same problem with my Ais 200/4,when I shoot BW film it doesn't matter but in a moment when I mount it on a digital it annoys a *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* out of me as these LoCAs are really hard to correct in PC and also I've read many reviews how great this lens is. Or maybe it's a bad sample,I don't know. But I'm wondering how would this DC be in comparison with AIs version. 200/2 is an alternative too but I think that's too long for the portraits and on Dx too long.
     
  29. Thanks John for your opinion, did 135/2 Ais had those nasty color fringes too? I know every fast lens must have some ,but not so much that it's that distracting.
    Thanks
     
  30. Rastislav - glad to help. The 200 f/2 is really a bit longer than I want as well (on FX), but it's useful for candids. If you can find a 125mm f/2.5 Voigtlander APO-Lanthar (see photozone's review) then it'll give you no colour fringing at a shorter focal length, but they're very hard to find - otherwise the 150mm Sigma would be my next recommendation for losing the background.

    But if you're not going for pathological conditions then, as you say, the Samyang is pretty good - I can't vouch for the build quality (I've no complaints, except that one originally turned up without working electronics; the replacement has been fine), but you could buy three for the price of an f/1.4 AF-D... I've not tried any other 85mm lens, so I only have third-party reports of LoCA.

    I'd meant to show my 135mm f/2.8 AI for comparison - but obviously it's much easier to be LoCA-free at f/2.8 than at f/2 or f/1.4 (and the f/2.8 lens could be better above f/4), and it can't lose the background like the big boys. KR reviewed the 135mm f/2 AI/AI-s and seemed to think it's got appreciable LoCA, although since he doesn't seem as fussed by the effect as I am he doesn't make as much of it. It's also possible that the 105 f/2 DC is slightly better-behaved than the 135 - I get the impression it's slightly sharper, at least.

    For what it's worth, I've tried fixing up the LoCA in DxO, and the fringes from the 135mm are beyond software fixing (whereas it does a relatively good job on, say, my 28-200). I've rescued images by manually smudging the chroma channels in LAB, but it's tedious and not perfect.

    When the DC lens works right, it does a beautiful job of smoothing the background - but it's unfortunate that you need to be so aware of the background (or at least, transition regions of the DoF) in deciding whether it can be used, given that the reason I wanted this lens was to make messy backgrounds go away. Good luck with whatever you get - and I hope I've not just ruined any chance I may have had of selling my DC lens!
     
  31. Andrew
    Just wondering if you have had your lens checked out. My copy of it is no where near that bad.
    I am just wondering if you might have a decentered element
     
  32. I have tested the following Nikon lenses that can be used for portraits on a 35mm camera:
    75-150mm f/3.5 Series E
    85mm f/1.8
    105mm f/2.5
    105mm f/2.8 micro
    180mm f/2.8
    80-200mm f/2.8
    All make excellent portrait lenses. The optical differences between them are very subtle and personal taste is probably the most important factor as to which one is preferred. I personally prefer the 105mm micro because it is also easy to use for jewelry and body part close-ups.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11336821@N00/5259209196/
    .
    00ZJ6N-397021584.JPG
     
  33. Michael - thanks for the thought. I've not had it officially checked (I could ask Nikon nicely); when I first got it, I did post an image on photo.net asking whether the colour fringing was normal for this lens, and I was told it was. This is a pretty pathological case intended to make the other lenses look good - a harsh black/white transition just outside the depth of field seen at 1:1 - and the descriptions I've heard of this lens suggest that the behaviour is intentional. If you ensure that the whole subject is inside the depth of field and that the background is well out of focus, it's a brilliant lens; it's only if the depth of field doesn't entirely cover the subject that it all goes wrong.

    The feedback I've got when grumbling about the LoCA has been that it's fine so long as you shoot at f/4 (which it more or less is), and the lens appears to be sharp - although it does sometimes miss focus (something that others have reported with this lens and is mentioned in the manual) - and symmetrical which I assumed meant it was optically okay. There is a small bubble in the glass, but I can't imagine it would have this effect. If you don't pixel peep, it's fine; if you're trying to produce pixel-perfect images of a friend's wedding dance with the background blurred and they have blonde hair, colour fringes at f/2 are a big pain. I bought it partly to shoot people playing tiddlywinks (which involves a white mat and a dimly-lit and messy background) so I hit the worst case a lot. If I just took an image of a model's face with a shallow DoF, chances are all would be well.

    That said, if yours is much better (and it's not just that you've sensibly avoided this kind of torture test) then I'll drop by Nikon UK and ask them to take a look, if only before I sell it. I know it's supposed to have LoCA (photozone's test shows this), but it's hard to know how bad it's supposed to be. KR's images taken with the 85mm f/1.4 AF-S have what I'd consider to be horrendous LoCA, but he didn't seem troubled by it, so I always just assumed I was picky.
     
  34. Andrew.
    I dont usually shhot such high contrast stuff as what you did there. But even so I do not see as much LoCa as you are showing.
     
  35. Thanks, Michael. I'll see whether Nikon will charge me to comment on whether this is worth investigating.
     
  36. My 105/2.5 is my all-time favorite portrait lens, used for everything the past 30 years from newspaper headshots to studio and wedding portraits. I also have the 85, which I use in tighter quarters. And I have the 135 (not the defocus version) but the focal length is longer than I like for portraits, especially inside. These are all MF and AI I believe. (85 could be pre-AI) As far as MF vs AF, that's not an issue for me in portaits. For portraits I focus on the closest eye and I've seen a lot more misses when AF sensor has missed the spot than I ever saw just focusing manually. As for sharpness, chromatic aberration, etc., I think that misses the point. These are all sharp lenses. A portrait needs to be in focus like any other picture, but I think obsessing over degrees of lens sharpness is irrelevant for portraits. Lots of people have spent years putting gauze and diffusion filters over their Hasselblad lenses because they are TOO sharp for flattering portaits. For me, if it says Nikon on it and it's not one of the cheap plastic consumer lenses they're diluting the brand with today, it's more than good enough.
     
  37. Thanks Andrew; from what I see, the IF design doesn`t harm the Samyang. It`d be needed to perform a side by side test to check which one is better, but I suspect that at best, the Nikkor will achieve the same performance.
    What I learned about the Zeiss 85/1.4 and I suspect the Nikon 85/1.4 Ais is very similar is that from f1.4 to f2 their image quality is directed at creating pleasing portraits with a slight softness (not unlike that of the a 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 lenses that I have owned in the past) and with nice soft rendering of out-of-focus foregrounds and backgrounds that the cheaper lenses cannot duplicate. Then by f2.8 the Zeiss was the sharpest lens I have ever had, and again I suspect the Nikon 85/1.4 would sharpen significantly as well from f2.8 to f5.6.
    I anticipate the purchase of a Nikon 85/1.4 AIS sometime in the next two years, myself, and I highly recommend this one.
    Wide open the Nikkor is extremely soft and with a glare effect, making it difficult to use under certain circumstances (direct sunlight). It`s a nice effect, but you have to know that it is there. At f2.8, the lens start to work as a "normal" one.
    I think the 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 doesn`t have this kind of softness. I didn`t tested them under this very same conditions (I don`t use to shoot under this conditions) but I think they are simply soft, "cheaper like", as you say.
    Out of focus foregrounds use to be nice in many lenses, backgrounds not so much. The 85/1.4AiS doesn`t have a specially nice bokeh to my taste; I`d say it`s very close to the 85/1.8 and many other Nikkors. Some call it "creamery" and "buttery"... check below.
    It certainly gets sharper from f2.8 on, and at f8 is really sharp. Surprisingly, I find it to be reasonably good for landscapes, focusing at larger distances.
    It is one of the most beautiful Nikkors, the block of glass is impressive, superb mechanical construction... but all in all, next time I think I`ll take my 105VR again.
     
  38. Some say that 85mm f/1.4 Ai-s is a king,but I've also read that 85mm f/1.4D is sharper and has a better bokeh.
    There are too many kings out there. ;)
    I`d not be surprised if the AFD version is sharper, even much sharper. The AFD is a 9 elements 8 groups construction while the AiS is a 7/5. Rorslet also mentions it; the AiS is only sharper from f5.6 on, usually nothing interesting for someone who is looking for the fastest lens.
    About bokeh, I bet the AFD will be better but for a small margin. From what I have seen, the outlining of the highlight rings wide open are not as marked, but still clear. Nice, but not a huge deal to me. The difference could be on the out of focus areas, that look clearly softer in the AFD.
    If I were buying for one of these, I`d personally go for the AFD.
     
  39. Just three more pics, all wide open with the 85/1.4AiS.
    00ZJDr-397115584.jpg
     
  40. Bokeh, wide open.
    00ZJDw-397117684.jpg
     
  41. Highlight rings, as usual.
    00ZJDy-397117884.jpg
     
  42. Jose,thanks for the pics,bokeh doesn't really seem to be that perfect but pic 2 seem pretty sharp for wide open. I was almost sure to go for Ais but you have a strong point about AF-D so I'm starting to consider it either and the price difference between those two is almost none.
     
  43. You inquired about portrait lenses not sharpness. There is a distinct difference! A sharp lens is not preferable for female portraits while for males a sharp lens is preferable. That is a rule of thumb. Also, when shooting portraits you want to shoot predominately at f4 or f5.4. As far as sharpness is concerned the 105mm f2.5 Ai-S is outstanding and deserves all the accolades that are bestowed upon it. As for a softer lens the 85mm f2.0 Ai-s is sufficient for female portrature. Again, remember women do not like to see or the imperfectures of their face highlighted by a sharp lens. As far as the D-40 is concerned it is an outdated model and does not support all the current line-up of lenses and furthermore it is not full frame which is a different than film. Go to www.naturfotograf.com for a review of Nikon lenses.
     
  44. Some AI-S are great lenses for portrait (35mm f1.4, 50mm f1.2, 105 f2.5, 85mm f1.4, 135mm f2, 180mm f2.8, 200mm f2). I have some of them. The problem to me is it is hard to manual focus accurately moving objects. If you are good at MF, they are worth every penny. I even think that my 105mm 2.5 AIS produces more interesting background (portrait wide open) than my 105mm 2 DC. I just cannot focus fast enough for my 21-month old baby. So, for moving objects, I go back to my AFD/AFS lenses.
     
  45. Another series of lenses for Nikon that you might look into are the Zeiss ZF series. They are manual focus.
     
  46. You inquired about portrait lenses not sharpness. There is a distinct difference! A sharp lens is not preferable for female portraits while for males a sharp lens is preferable. That is a rule of thumb.​
    I'm never very impressed by the argument that portrait lenses can afford to be soft, or that nobody cares about wide-open performance at the edges of the frame. In a digital age, softening skin is relatively easy, even without achieving it with a large light source; sharpening the output from a soft lens (without artifacts) is harder. It's true that a lot of wide-aperture portraits place the subject near the middle and blur everything around, but there are also times when the focal plane intersects with something in the scene that's visible to the edge of the frame (without necessarily drawing the eye out of the frame), and the kind of smear produced by a lens with soft edges can be distracting. It's fine to say "I happen never to take shots for which these lens defects matter", or at least "I can live with these defects for the kind of shots I take", but not to claim that they aren't defects at all or that nobody else could care. (Not to bite Steve's head off unduly - I see these arguments a lot. I've seen worse claims; KR claims that LoCA with green fringes in the background makes foliage look better.)

    There are lenses that are deliberately designed to be soft - Canon's 135mm f/2.8 SF and the Nikon DC lenses when set to a DC number smaller than their aperture - but these lenses also have a "sharp mode" for which softness can be turned off. I concede that smooth bokeh is more important in many portrait lenses than absolute sharpness, but that doesn't mean that they weren't intended to be sharp - priorities are one thing, but I doubt there's ever been a lens which was deliberately designed to have only poor microcontrast.
    I just cannot focus fast enough for my 21-month old baby. So, for moving objects, I go back to my AFD/AFS lenses.​
    I have to say that one reason I got my 135mm DC lens is that I struggled to get moving targets with my f/2.8 AI 135mm. I was shooting a friend's wedding (as a guest) a couple of years back with the AI lens and a borrowed Sigma 50mm. People standing around and giving speeches were no problem, but getting the bridge and groom walking into the reception was a write-off, even knowing where they'd be. If only trap focus worked with manual focus lenses (but I suspect Nikon want you to buy new glass). Unfortunately, I've not found the 135 DC's autofocus to be reliable either, when used with DC enabled - although it's not totally useless. Since I've been shopping in the last couple of years, these days I'd either do the sensible thing and use an 80-200, or the not-sensible-thing and use my 200 f/2. I intend to keep the 135 AI as my "fits in my pocket portrait lens" though - so long as the subject holds still I'm very happy with it.
     
  47. I agree with you Andrew,It's not a problem to make pic look soft in photoshop and I don't like that hazy dreamy effect either,and 12mp camera has not enough resolution to show skin artifacts so much and so 135 film. Maybe hasselblad H4D has that ability but that's completely another level.
     
  48. I could really use a bokeh comparison between 85s to see it on my own. If somebody has them both then please,please.
     
  49. If it helps, Photozone has bokeh images for the AF-D and AF-S 85mm f/1.4s, and also the Samyang (on Canon, which looks slightly worse than I'd expect - but then I got it expecting it to be no worse than the Nikkors and cheaper, rather than actually being an improvement). KR has a review of the AI 85mm and mentions the existence of spherochromatism, but I don't think there's an explicit bokeh shot. Bjørn mentions LoCA for the AF-D and relative softness for the AI, but obviously no images.
     
  50. I've already read all these things,and seen lots of pictures at flickr but still can't decide,KR has an article about sharpness comparison between 85s with nice pictures,but as a portrait lens I care about bokeh too,AF-D's borders are never sharp but if it has more pleasing bokeh it's thing I can live with. And with 135mm I've decided to go for AF version. DC feature seem to have nice touch to the pictures and everyone says that at F/2 it's much sharper that it's predecessor. Price difference is not so much here,AI-s in mint shape sells from 800-1000 and AF-D about 1000-1100 used but like new.
     
  51. "... AF-D's borders are never sharp but if it has more pleasing bokeh it's thing I can live with"
    In comparison to what?
    From what I have seen bokeh differences are splitting hairs, being the latest version always a bit better than the predecessor.
    Check this link; 85/1.4AFD vs 85/1.8AFD. If you look at the highlight spots, both are ugly, being the 85/1.8 even more ugly. Look at the defocused areas; the 85/1.4 show more out of focus blurriness but... $500-1000 more blurriness? Is it really worth it? Does this increased blurriness benefit your pics?
    (BTW, the 85/1.4AiS seem to me pretty close to the 85/1.8AFD in this photos).
    Check this other link; 85/1.4G review. At the end of the lens`description there are some comparison shots with the previous AFD version. Optically, splitting hairs again. After reading the "Overall bokeh analysis" paragraph, I have to smile. Certainly there is a tiny difference, but how much it will affect the quality of my photos? Nothing. And what about price? The same as above.
    I think there is -a lot- of hype about lens bokeh; personally, I`d get the most usable lens, and as a second choice, the most pleasant to use (e.g. AiS versions in MF cameras). IMHO, fastest AiS primes are insanely priced, and not justified by its performance.
    "... 12mp camera has not enough resolution to show skin artifacts... "
    Huh? With proper illumination and technique my D700, with either the 105VR or 24-70 (both amongst my most used lenses), is terrific with skin imperfections.
     
  52. bokeh differences are splitting hairs​
    Maybe you're right Jose. The biggest problem is that Ais(in good shape) and AF-D costs about the same. If MF cost 2/3 of AF there would be no doubt. That's the main reason I can't decide. But back to the bokeh again,there are tiny differences for a huge price difference,yeah,but I want the best possible. I am made that way :)
     
  53. To be honest, all remotely recent lenses are very good, and the skill of the photographer makes far more of a difference than the equipment (at least with me). Some kit lets you take images that others won't - there are reasons to want a very wide aperture, even if it's expensive and makes it hard to maintain optical quality - and sometimes it's really a choice between similar equipment.

    Still, as Rastislav says, if you're spending money to get an effect, you may as well try to get the best option available for your money. The difference between the bokeh of two lenses may be small, but if all else is equal, why not go for the better one? If LoCA bothers you, why not make sure you're not getting more of it than you want? Those of us who lurk here may seem obsessed about equipment; I'm like this about everything - I like to know as much as I can before I hand over my money, and I'm the same when it comes to trying to learn to use it. We each have our own priorities - I got my 200 f/2 mostly for the bokeh, and I'm very happy with it, but there's no way I expect most people to find it a sensible trade-off.

    I do agree that a D700 is perfectly capable of making skin look bad, although to be fair it has a stronger low-pass filter than some other cameras. If you want to count the hairs on a lady's cheek, medium format might be the way, though...
     
  54. Well, I have to agree with you.
    Another shot taken with the 85AiS... check that bokeh has been slightly improved in later versions:
    00ZK2P-397909584.jpg
     
  55. And...
    "If you want to count the hairs on a lady's cheek... " (taken with a D700 + 70-200VRII, 100% crop)​
    ... clic below ;)
    00ZK2T-397911584.jpg
     
  56. Rastislav, I`m not sure if I have expressed myself correctly. I wanted to mean that (personally) the AFD option, image quality wise, seem better to me; sharper wide open, better bokeh, --autofocus--... I`d only buy the expensive AiS version for the insane pleasure of using it -sporadically- on a MF camera. Here the "image quality issue" goes behind... I keep it for this reason.
     
  57. Jose - not quite the image I had in mind, but I guess this isn't the portraits and fashion forum. :)
     
  58. Thank you guys for your time. I'll buy AF versions,I guess 135mm first and then 85mm. I also bought old AiS 80-200/4 recently,focus is a real pleasure on these lenses but i could use a slightly shallower DOF so now I'm pretty sure I want these high speed lenses even more. And again,thank you for your help.
     
  59. Glad to help, Rastislav. And if you happen to find out that your 135 DC isn't as badly-behaved as mine (when tortured), please send me a message? I hope you're very happy with it.

    For symmetry, I recently got an 80-200 f/2.8 because I wanted the ability to blur the background and have control over focal length. But I'm not about to give up my primes - if there was any chance of that, I'd not have bought the cheapest (autofocus) 80-200 I could find.
     
  60. OK Andrew,I'll let you know then. But please have in mind that it will take some time,maybe 2 months. I'm not from USA so I'll try ebay and they don't show up very often here.
     
  61. The comparison of AF-D 1.4 and 1.8 is interesting. I have come to realize that my 1.8 AF-D is really great. I have not owned anything that is more uniform in terms of sharpness across the frame. It does, however, have a bit more color fringing (longitudinal CA?), as in Andrew's posts, than do the AI-S 85/2.0, 105/1.8 and 105/2.5.
    I think the 85/2.0 AI or AI-s is perhaps the best bargain of the bunch. It seems to be underapreciated. Also, I love its small size. At least my sample is only a hair behind the 1.8AF-D in corner/border sharpness (not enough to really matter in practice, I expect). It is a little better behaved in terms of color fringing and is a little more pleasing wide open than the 1.8. The latter may be sharper, but when open takes on a hazy, bluish cast.
    In the 105 range, I LOVE both the 1.8 and 2.5. The OP asks about the 135/2.0. If you want fast, consider the 105/1.8. It is a bit better than the 2.5 at 2.5-4.0. It is not much heavier or larger, really. Sadly, I just tend to gravitate to the 85mm length more than 105. So, my 85/2.0 still get more use than any other long lens.
    I have no experience with the 135/2.0 AIS, but I did have the DC. I stupidly sold it, and it would cost me much more than I got for it now to buy a good used one. I did not like the color fringing near wide open, but I sold it before getting a D700, and it would have been nice to try on FX.
    As I think many have, I got a bit too caught-up in the game of searching for THE BEST lens in the 100mm +/- range. (I probably a 35 or 85/90 for 90% of my shooting.) I tend to prefer the AI-S era lenses or their equivalents for build. I have a hard time taking a plastic AF seriously, even if I have come to respect the newer lenses for their optics! Among the lenses I have owned and put through the paces on DX/FX and film, I tried several Leica R-lenses (with leitax mount). In the short tele range, I have tried both the Elmarit-R 90 (last version) and Summilux-R 80. I was actually rather disappointed, and concluded that their legend is mostly due to the name. Nikon 85/1.8 AF-D, 85/2.0 AI-S and the 105s (1.8 and 2.5) outperformed the Elmarit, at least for my purposes. Even the Summilux was not worth the price premium. I tend to do more architecture than portraits. Leicas (also the M-series and wide R-series lenses I have owned) tend to have noticeably more curvature of field. It really shows up with architecture. In such shooting, even the Summilux was not up to the Nikons. (I know, that is heresy.) I ultimately sold all my Leica R lenses (including 35 Elmarit-R, and 35 and 50 Summicron-Rs, all last versions). Ultimately, with the better Nikon AIS and AF offerings, as well as the Zeiss ZF lenses (I have the great 21/2.8 and and 35/2.0!) outperformed the Leicas.
    Anyway, after much experimentation, I concluded that the minor differences between the "best" lenses just aren't enough to worry so much about. What counts is what you can actually get with them. There are some great, inexpensive (used) AI-S era lenses, like my 85/2.0 and 105s. I don't think I am missing anything that will really matter in practice. One of the great things about, say, the 85/2.0 and 105/2.5 is size. Sure, there may be a portrait that might be a little different character if I were to take it with the (now gone) Summilux-R 80. But, I'm more likely to actually carry around one of the smaller Nikon's, and both are capable of killer shots (e.g., the famous "Afgan Girl" shot taken with the 105/2.5, right?).
     
  62. Thank you Fred,you are right that AiS lenses are greatly built. 105 doesn't feel right for me. About 135mm I'm pretty sure I want AF version for it's defocus ability,I don't expect much from that ring but it's a nice bonus. In 85mm line I'm still not sure,I've also considered zeiss. This may need some time to think it trough. AF is said to be better but Ais looks very nice too. I've also been looking at 85/2 but I think that faster will have a little nicer bokeh.
     

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